United States Veterans Healthcare Benefits For Mesothelioma Patients

Quick Summary

United States military veterans comprise approximately 8% of the American population. In a country with 323 million people, there are over 25 million ex-service members. Some of these dedicated volunteers spent entire careers serving their country and protecting American citizens and soil. Other service personnel did required tours and then discharged back into civilian life. Regardless of their service period, all U.S. military veterans are eligible to apply for certain healthcare benefits.

Asbestos Use in the US Military

One of the biggest dangers for military veterans wasn’t active combat. It was health problems later arsing after being exposed to asbestos during their duties. There’s a disproportionate ratio between the numbers of American veterans suffering asbestos-related diseases compared to their civilian counterparts. The largest disparity is in mesothelioma sufferers where over one-third of mesothelioma victims are military veterans. The majority of vets with mesothelioma served in the navy.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for administering healthcare benefits to all branches of the United States military and some support agencies. Veterans Affairs looks after regular entitled benefits like pensions as well as special disability compensation payments and extended health care services. This includes looking after veterans from the Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force. VA benefits also extend to the Coast Guard, National Guard and reservists in all branches. Some government departments like the Coast and Geodetic Survey Agency, the Environmental Science Service Administration, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and commissioned officers of the Public Health Service to have VA benefits as well.

US Veterans and Asbestos Exposure Risks

Every United States military department extensively used asbestos-containing materials (ACM) for a five-decade period between the start of World War II and the mid-1980s. Then it was no longer possible to ignore the devastating health hazards asbestos exposure presented. There had been many warnings about asbestos health risks, but military command and political masters downplayed or hid the information.

Military planners and equipment designers thought asbestos was the perfect additive for making vessels, aircraft, vehicles and buildings fireproof, soundproof and well-insulated. Asbestos lightened and strengthened products. It was non-conductive, non-corrosive and chemically inert. Asbestos was cheap to buy, easy to work with and plentiful in supply. Military use stopped in the later twentieth-century, and serious abatement programs began. Today, most ACM has been removed from U.S. military equipment and encapsulated in buildings.

Asbestos Exposure Update

Asbestos is one of the most toxic carcinogens known. Asbestos is a silicate, glass-like mineral that doesn’t break down in the body. When airborne asbestos fibers are inhaled, they impale in the lung tissue and make their way through to the lining or what’s called the mesothelium. It takes between 10 and 50 years before diseases to develop from asbestos exposure but, when they present symptoms, they’re often at an advanced stage and hard to control.

Mesothelioma occurs when the lung lining succumbs to a network of malignant tumors. This can also happen in the heart membrane, abdomen lining and occasionally in the testicle mesothelium. By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, many veterans have little options except turning to the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation and extended healthcare benefits.

Healthcare Benefits Eligibility for U.S. Military Veterans

All veterans of every military branch and recognized agency are eligible to apply for Veterans Affairs healthcare benefits and disability compensation. Many veteran benefits are earned entitlements after serving their country in war and at peace. Some healthcare benefits provide additional support where normal programs restrict payment and assistance. These are called eligible benefits and depend on the individual veteran’s circumstances.

The three main benefits available to the United States military vets are:

  • Post-service pensions and automatic medical plans.
  • Duty-related injury and illness disability compensation.
  • Long-term extended healthcare benefits for living requirements.

The Department of Veterans Affairs assesses compensation and other healthcare benefits eligibility on a case-by-case basis. It’s rare that individual cases are identical to others so VA opens claims based on two eligibility criteria.

They are:

  • Duty-related: Disabilities or healthcare requirements must be duty-related. That can apply to active-service personnel or veterans who’ve long left their military branch and returned to civilian life. That also applies to mesothelioma sufferers who developed the disease decades after their service exposure to asbestos materials.
  • Honorable Discharge: Veteran claimants must be honorably discharged. It doesn’t matter if a veteran had a short tour in the military or a full career. As long as a vet discharged under honorable circumstances, they’re always eligible for duty-related healthcare benefits. Dishonorably discharged ex-service personnel are not eligible for benefits under any circumstance.

Mesothelioma Treatment Through VA Healthcare System

The Department of Veterans Affairs assists United States military vets with many healthcare benefits outside of specialized compensation and monthly income assistance. Some benefits are designed to improve veterans’ quality of life and assist disabled vets to integrate with civilian life through education, training, mental health support and even arranging home loans and insurance. However, some veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma require advanced healthcare assistance only found in a hospital setting.

Some U.S. military veterans have a low opinion or expectation from the over 1200 VA healthcare facilities located across America. While that reputation was somewhat deserving a decade or more ago, that’s now changed for the better. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs has two of the nation’s leading mesothelioma treatment centers. One is located in Boston, while the other is in Los Angeles.

VA Boston Healthcare System

The VA medical facility in Boston, Massachusetts, specializes in treating malignant pleural mesothelioma. Its General Thoracic Surgery department is headed by Dr. Abraham (Avi) Lebenthal, who is a veteran of the Israeli Special Defense Forces. As a seasoned vet himself, Dr. Lebenthal understands veterans’ needs and compassionately treats them with the best care possible. He devotes all of his time to treating veterans with mesothelioma.

Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

Dr. Robert Cameron heads the Los Angeles VA facility’s Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program. Dr. Cameron is part of a team that pioneered mesothelioma surgery where they remove the pleural lining without extracting the lung. They’ve had amazing success using a lung-sparing surgical technique called pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) that removes the diseased lung lining while leaving the lung intact.

The Boston and Los Angeles VA healthcare systems have the best mesothelioma treatment available in America. Qualified veterans who are accepted into these mesothelioma treatment programs often have to travel long distances and remain at the facility for some time. VA and private funding is available to transport, house and look after veterans while under the Boston or Los Angeles facilities’ care.

Get Assistance With VA Benefits Claims

It’s important to know that Veteran Affairs benefits are completely independent of any civil process. Litigating private companies, trust funds, and insurance providers does not affect VA benefits. Veterans can receive all VA compensation and support services without penalty against civil litigation. Veterans cannot, however, sue the United States government or respective military branches.

Mesothelioma Help Now has VA Accredited Claims Representatives available to help veterans with their asbestos claims. We are thoroughly familiar with the Department of Veterans Affairs claim process and are here to help all veterans who deserve and are entitled to healthcare benefits. Contact our claims representative and discuss what benefits you or your family members are eligible for.

View Author and Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Official Website, General Information, Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  2. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation Claims” Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on 06 January 2018
  3. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Compensation – Asbestos Exposure”, Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-exposures-asbestos.asp Accessed on 06 January 2018
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, “I am a Veteran” Retrieved from https://va.gov/opa/persona/index.asp Accessed on 06 January 2018
  5. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/disability-benefits/conditions/exposure-to-hazardous-materials/asbestos/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  6. VA/Vets.gov website, Veterans Disability and Healthcare Benefits”, Retrieved from https://www.vets.gov/ Accessed on 06 January 2018
  7. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on 06 January 2018
  8. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on 06 January 2018

Last modified: May 7, 2018